It was an early spring evening last year in Manhattan. Kale Browne, from TV’s soap Another World, had told me to come out to the studio when I could. The problem? It was getting dark and the studio was in Brooklyn, meaning we had to take the infamous New York City subway.
We threw caution to the wind and did it anyway. Once at the studio we had to wait because the cast, including Browne, was in a late taping. We watched monitors as they went over and over the scene where Frankie and Cass were supposed to get remarried. Finally, it was done and some actors began filtering out, but not Browne.
Just as I began to think that coming to Brooklyn at this time of night wasn’t such a good idea, Browne came toward us. As usual, TV makes one look heavier and older, and I was stunned at how handsome he was. (I know, there are few ugly people on soaps). He was surprised I was there so late, and though he didn’t say anything, I could tell my timing was a bit of an imposition on him. We went to his dressing room so we could talk in private.
I asked how long he’d played the character of Michael Hudson.
“On the show?” he laughingly responded.
I shrugged and laughed with him. “No, in real life.”
“I was playing Michael Hudson from age six on. Occasionally, I’d go, ‘Donna!’ in my sleep.” He laughed a little more, then got serious. “Since January of 1986.”
Though the part wasn’t written for him, he was later told a couple of people had him in mind for it for a long time. Ellen Novak, casting director, remembered him from an audition at As The World Turns in 1978. However, when the part of Michael came up, he was doing a film in Brazil and they couldn’t locate him.
In an unrelated offer, his agent called when he returned to Los Angeles and said, “No audition, just go in and screen test with Diedre Hall from Days of Our Lives.” He did and a week later, his agent called back and asked if he’d do a soap in New York. It turned out that the first time Novak had been able to locate him was when she discovered he had tested for the L.A. soap. He didn’t get the role on Days of Our Lives, but he did become Michael Hudson on Another World. Browne said to himself, “If this lasts 13 weeks and I get to pay off my VISA card, I’ll be happy.”
Browne’s impish sense of humor continued unabated and I asked about how he’d gotten into the business. “I started doing theatre, Three Little Skunks, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in Kindergarten and first grade.” Seriously, folks, he did a lot of Shakespeare as he got older, and from there, he “bummed around, like everyone else,” getting extra work on soaps, other theatre both in New York and on the West Coast, nighttime TV and film. Then came the role of Michael Hudson and the rest is, obviously, history.
He’s been doing it now for five-and-a-half years. It’s given him a steady job, a regular paycheck—something important for a married man with a child (his wife is Karen Allen, of Indiana Jones fame)—but it has rarely allowed him the time to test his abilities in any other form of acting. A few years ago he played Christa McAuliffe’s husband in the TV movie about the Challenger crew and disaster. Simply to verify, I asked, “Your wife played Christa McAuliffe, correct?”
“I certainly hope it was her,” he responded. “We stayed in the same hotel room a lot, anyway.”
This was the first time he’d worked with her and it was all part of a well-thought-out plan. First, it was an effort on his part to be in the same city with Allen for more than a brief period (she does film work in different locations). Second, they decided to have a baby and he wanted Allen to have a few projects coming out while she was pregnant and during the baby’s first year.
When he saw the Challenger script, he got in touch with his wife’s agent and asked if they’d submit his tape. The response was that he looked too much like a soap actor. Browne, though, was not ready to give up. He got a picture of Steve McAuliffe, cut his hair, temporarily dyed it brown, stuffed cotton up into his cheeks, wore horn-rimmed glasses, and put on a madras shirt. Then he took a Polaroid of himself and Federal Express-ed it to the film’s director. That got him the job.
When asked where he wanted to be in five years, his answer proved that he was about ready to move on to other avenues. He said he wanted to direct, branch out to other areas of the media. Then he added, “I’ve got, well, let’s see if it . . . I’d like to do films, nighttime television.”
I didn’t know it then or even notice his sly cover-up, but Browne must’ve been planning his exit from Another World at that time. For it was just this winter, after our interview, when I received a mailing list postcard explaining why he did indeed leave the show [the month before]. Yet, as soap storylines often go, Hudson’s departure from the day-to-day tapestry of Another World was done so that Hudson could return at virtually any time.
Will we see Browne in nighttime TV? In films? On another soap? We’ll have to stay tuned. By the way, Browne wouldn't allow us to go back to Manhattan that night by subway. All the actors are driven in and out of the city by professional cars and Browne insisted we go back with him.
A good actor. A handsome man. A natural comic. And a gentleman. Good luck, Kale.